It is not surprising that the act of stripping down and spreading out your belongings in multiple bins, then sending them through the scanner while you are distracted with the full-body scanner or the pat-down means no traveler can keep an eye on all their stuff. Some would (and do) say “Of course this scenario leads to thievery – it’s bound to happen!”.
According to the TSA’s own blog, written by Bob Burns, 381 TSA workers were fired for theft between May 1st 2003 and September 2012. Some of the TSA criminals who were caught spent years swiping personal property from the very same public they are supposed to protect and selling it to pad their wallets.
Mr. Burns’ limited attempt to repair the public perception of the TSA as a bunch of criminals well deserving of the title, “thousands standing around’ resulted in even more anger from the public to the tune of 114 sizzling comments.
These days, it’s hard to say which group the American public hates more right now: Congress or the TSA, both of whom were created to protect us. In an effort to be fair, there was also a story this year of a TSA agent reuniting a pile of cash with it’s rightful owner.
The truth is that many travelers have a lot on their minds when they’re going through security – one of the most pressing being ‘Am I going to get through security in time to make my flight?’ The following are 6 steps to minimize the risk of losing your belongings to the TSA agents.
1. Don’t put anything of much value in your checked luggage
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – checked luggage is just for the stuff you can afford to lose. If it’s important, carry it with you and don’t lose sight of it (yeah, we know that’s hard while going through security). This means iPads, laptops, cameras, jewelry, etc. go in your carry-on or on your body when you travel.
2. Get organized before you leave the house
The lighter you pack, the easier this is, but when you’re packing for a trip, spread all your stuff out on the bed like it would look on the conveyor belt and weed out anything that’s unnecessary and could trigger the alarm.
Put those items that must be pulled out of your carry-on and dropped in a bin easily accessible – as in the outside pockets of your bag.
3. Make a list and keep it in your pocket
Paper IS still one of those things that can go through the scanners with you, so use an index card or sticky note to make a list of the items you will be dropping into the plastic bins and verify you have all of those before you leave the security area.
You could put this list on one of your electronics, but those have to go in the bins. Of course, if it didn’t show up on the other side, then you’d certainly know you had a problem. It’s your call.
A standard traveler list would look something like this:
- Cell phone
Once you get through the scanner, you can more easily count off what you dropped into the bins and if something is missing, address the issue right away.
4. Empty your pockets into something else
If you put your belt, heavy jewelry, phone, and whatever else that’s rattling around in your pocket into a separate bag – a zippered plastic bag works great here – while you’re standing in line, then it’s a little safer than rattling around loose in a bin. This is particularly important with smaller electronics and jewelry – you know, those small things that are easy to pocket and re-sell? It’s also easier to grab and start running if you’re short on time.
5. Remember kindergarten and use the buddy system
If you’re traveling with someone – or can make a quick friend in line – you can buddy up and watch each other’s stuff while the other is going through the scanner and vice versa.
Make a point of this in line and it could catch on, which would also work to keep the TSA agents aware that you’re keep an eye on them.
6. Take your time and check your list
It’s almost impossible not to feel rushed at the security checkpoints, but it is OK to slow down a bit, pay attention to where you’re putting what and double-check you have everything before you leave. Is wallet in the bin or in your backpack? for example. Where is your iPod and your cell phone?
Once you get on the other side, whip out your list and give it a quick scan while you’re putting on your shoes again.
Got everything? Good, you’re cleared for go.